Introduction: There is general concern regarding the possible hazardous health effects of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation emitted from mobile phones. This study aimed to assess the effects of chronic exposure to electromagnetic waves emitted from Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) mobile phones on auditory functions.
Material and methods: A retrospective, cross-sectional, randomized, case control study was carried out in a tertiary care hospital. One hundred twelve subjects who were long-term mobile phone users (more than 1 year) and 50 controls who had never used a mobile phone underwent a battery of audiologic investigations including pure-tone audiometry (both speech and high frequency), tympanometry, distortion product otoacoustic emissions, auditory brain responses, and middle latency responses. Changes in the various parameters were studied in the mobile phone- and non-mobile phone-using ears of subjects and corresponding ears of the controls to ascertain the effects of electromagnetic exposure.
Results: There was no significant difference between users and controls for any of the audiologic parameters. However, trends for audiologic abnormalities were seen within the users. High-frequency loss and absent distortion product otoacoustic emissions were observed with an increase in the duration of mobile phone use, excessive use of mobile phones, and age more than 30 years. Additionally, users with some complaints during mobile phone use demonstrated absent distortion product otoacoustic emissions and abnormalities in auditory brainstem response.
Conclusion: Long-term and intensive mobile phone use may cause inner ear damage. A large sample size would be required to reach definitive conclusions.